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Rural Broadband Efforts Moving Forward

Alleghenies Broadband, Inc. (ABI) is partnering with local governments and internet service providers to expand reliable, high-speed internet access for unserved and underserved portions of the region.

Alleghenies Broadband, Inc. (ABI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving internet connectivity in Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Somerset Counties. In recent months, ABI has been collaborating with local governments and internet service providers (ISPs) to expand reliable, high-speed internet to communities currently lacking service.

ABI has developed a strategic plan which outlines a framework that categorizes current and future broadband efforts into three distinct tiers.

Tier 1 efforts include partnerships with local internet service providers on the installation of equipment on existing telecommunication towers to expand fixed wireless internet service to areas that currently lack adequate connectivity.

Tier 2 projects include the construction of new telecommunication towers to support the expansion of fixed wireless service in parts of the region that lack the vertical assets needed to offer high-speed services. ABI has been involved in several Tier 2 projects to address the lack of towers, including the submission of a grant application to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for a large-scale expansion of internet services. The application is currently under review by NTIA officials and requests funding to construct 30 new towers to support fixed wireless service in the region.

Tier 3 consist of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) projects which offer superior quality service and bandwidth speeds. Given the importance of fiber-optic infrastructure, ABI is committed to the expansion of fiber technology to deliver high-speed wired internet to residents and businesses. ABI recently selected a consultant to complete a regional high-level design that will provide the framework for construction of a reliable, high-speed fiber-optic network to support last mile solutions like fiber-to-the-home. The design will provide a comprehensive, long-term strategy to address the lack of internet connectivity in the region and encourage partnerships with the private sector to utilize existing dark fiber. Once completed, the high-level design will provide a roadmap for future deployment efforts in the six-county region.

“We’re excited about the work already underway and for the plans we’re developing that will guide future investments in broadband."

Alleghenies Broadband Inc. has encouraged counties, municipalities, and school districts to invest state and federal funding currently available in broadband deployment efforts in their jurisdiction. Given the influx of state and federal funding for COVID-19 response efforts, including the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, it is imperative that investments are made in broadband connectivity. As part of these efforts, ABI released a Request for Proposals (RFP) in which local internet service providers (ISPs) proposed broadband expansions throughout the region. After reviewing and evaluating the proposals submitted, Bedford County awarded funds to Crowsnest Broadband for their Bedford County Wireless Broadband Expansion. The project was awarded nearly $1M in ARPA funding through the County which will be used for the installation of fixed wireless equipment on 21 existing towers throughout Bedford County (Tier 1 project). The effort is expected to bring reliable, high-speed service to an estimated 3,900 residents and businesses that currently lack quality internet. To date, Crowsnest Broadband has completed equipment installations on 11 towers and plans to complete the remaining towers later this spring.

In addition, Huntingdon County recently awarded nearly $1.5M in ARPA funds to two fixed wireless providers operating in the county. Details on those projects are being finalized and both are slated to begin later this spring. It’s estimated that the investment will result in more than 1,500 residents and businesses served.

Brandon Carson, Executive Director of ABI said, “We’re excited about the work already underway and for the plans we’re developing that will guide future investments in broadband. ABI is well positioned to tackle the connectivity issues that our rural areas face, and we’ll continue to leverage partnerships with the public and private sectors to expand internet services in some of the region’s hardest to reach areas.”

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